Pakistan’s head coach-cum-chief selector Misbahul Haq, in an exclusive interview with cricket.com.au on Monday, dropped a major hint about the possible debut of the 16-year-old pace sensation Naseem Shah.
Naseem is likely to make his international in the forthcoming two-Test series, which will begin on November 21 in Brisbane. Naseem stole the spotlight with his fiery spell on the final day of Pakistan’s practice match against Australia A in Perth.
The 16-year-old dismissed opening batsman Marcus Harris for 20 and ended up finishing with figures of 1-21 off eight overs. However, he went wicketless in Pakistan’s practice game against the Cricket Australia XI, where he conceded 58 runs off the 12 overs he bowled.
Misbah called the 16-year-old the standout bowler for the Men in Green and claimed that the fast-bowler could be a match-winner for the side.
“The best thing about Naseem Shah is the control he has on his bowling. He has a very good bowling action and knows which deliveries to bowl. He can bowl with a very good control,” Misbah told cricket.com.au.
“He knows his stuff and bowled really well in the first-class matches he played this season. He’s bowled well here too and is the standout bowler for us. The way he’s been bowling, he can be a match-winner for us.”
The 45-year-old believed that the team would not buckle under the pressure of history and face the challenge by playing good cricket.
“Our previous record in Australia won’t put us under pressure. If anything, it’ll be an opportunity and motivation to win because whatever we couldn’t achieve in the past, we can do now,” he said.
“It’s a young and hungry team and it means business. This team wants to take the challenge. We want to give our best, play good cricket and think about winning.”
Whether Naseem can be effective across four or five days of hard cricket, not just in short bursts, remains to be seen. But if he can rattle some of the Australian top order in Brisbane, we might just see the birth of a Pakistan pace star in the tradition of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
The former captain backed the struggling leg-spinner Yasir Shah and expressed hope that the bowler would perform better than his previous outing Down Under.
“We know Yasir hasn’t done well in these conditions, but three years is a long time. He now has experience of playing in Australia,” he said.
“He’s coming on this tour on the back of some good performances in first-class cricket, where he’s bowled long spells. He’s worked a lot on his bowling, keeping the conditions in mind. We’ll make the final game plan and see how effective Yasir is in it.”
The 45-year-old believed that batsman Babar Azam would be the key player for the Men in Green in their upcoming encounter against Australia.
“There is a world of difference between Babar of 2016 and Babar now. He’s now a matured and experienced player. He plays good shots on the back foot, which will be handy in these conditions. He’s scored runs in T20s as well as in the tour match so he’ll be coming into the series on the back of some good form. He’s our key player,” he concluded.
Earlier, Australia batsman Steve Smith has admitted that Pakistan seamers Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah could pose serious threats during the upcoming Test series.
“This week is going to be about getting used to the Gabba bounce, working on my leave and just being patient,” Smith was quoted as saying by Wide World of Sports.
“I’ve never faced Abbas … he stands the seam up, any sort of movement he’ll get the most out of it and it looks like Shah bowls with some good pace. Being as young as he is, he probably hasn’t bowled lots of overs consistently so it’ll be about making him come back and bowl as many spells as he can and see if he can maintain it,” said Smith.